The Women

The WomenThe Women by T.C. Boyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio version read by Grover Gardner and enjoyed this very much. Boyle has a way of describing locations in a way that brings all the details vividly to life. The “narrator” of the story is a fictional Japanese apprentice who comes to live at Taliesin, and who muses on the foibles of his master, through the lens of the women in Frank Lloyd Wright’s life. The story is told backwards from his last wife Olgivanna, perhaps the most successful at accommodating herself to Frank’s ego, ending with the tragedy of the murder of Mamah and her children. In between, is the drug addicted and extremely narcissistic Miriam Noel, who evoked no sympathy for the hell she created for herself. I would have liked the book to continue backwards with the story of Kitty, his first wife, but perhaps that would be another book in itself. I found myself sharing the assessment of Tadashi, the narrator – a mixture of admiration for the genius of Frank Lloyd Wright along with shaking my head over his bull-headedness and inability to learn from his mistakes.

I should add that FLW’s wives are not the only “women” in this story. Also of interest are Svetlana, the daughter of Olgivanna, FLW’s housekeeper and cook, Mrs. Breen, FLW’s mother, and the wife of the Barbadian servant.

Description:

Having brought to life eccentric cereal king John Harvey Kellogg in The Road to Wellville and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in The Inner Circle, T.C. Boyle now turns his fictional sights on an even more colorful and outlandish character: Frank Lloyd Wright. Boyle’s incomparable account of Wright’s life is told through the experiences of the four women who loved him. There’s the Montenegrin beauty Olgivanna Milanoff, the passionate Southern belle Maude Miriam Noel, the tragic Mamah Cheney, and his young first wife, Kitty Tobin. Blazing with his trademark wit and inventiveness, Boyle deftly captures these very different women and the creative life in all its complexity.

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